Veteran Producer DJ Pooh known to fans
worldwide as Red in the movie Friday, has been a force in the Hip-Hop
world for nearly three decades now. Breaking in as a DJ for the groundbreaking
legendary West Coast DJ crew known as Uncle Jamms Army, DJ Pooh made
his mark as a producer for the likes of LL Cool J, Ice Cube, King Tee,
2Pac, Snoop Dogg and many more. Not one to stop there, DJ Pooh made
his way in to film-making and screen-writing along with his long time
friend Ice Cube as they co-wrote the cult-smash movie Friday. Ice Cube
and DJ Pooh had a falling out after that movie as was evident in the
song Whoop Whoop by Kam which appeared on DJ Poohs own album,
Bad Newz Travels Fast. DJ Pooh continued with his film career by
writing and directing the movie 3 Strikes and teaming with his mentor
Dr. Dre for The Wash. However, it didnt stop there for him as he
once again found a new lane to be creative by making his way in to the
video game world by helping to create the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
game. Although DJ Pooh admits to not doing many interviews, he chose
AllHipHop.com to tell his unique story from his beginnings to the projects
that hes working on now. Be inspired to find new ways to be creative
by reading this special interview.
AllHipHop.com: Your West Coast Hip-Hop
roots go pretty deep. Why dont you let us know just how far back
you really go?
DJ Pooh: It started back in the day
with me just being Pooh I was a little chubby kid. I am 63
and slim now but I was a chubby little kid and because of that, my family
called me that name. When I became interested in DJing, I just kept
the same name. I guess I wasnt thinking about one day being a grown
man named Pooh (laughs). I started doing gigs with Uncle Jamms Army
which was really the first source of a lot of urban music on the West
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people dont
know the history of Uncle Jamms Army and the roots it has on the West
Coast. You guys used to pack the Sports Arena with 10,000 people with
no headline act but your own.
DJ Pooh: I went down to a record store
that Rodger Clayton a.k.a. Uncle Jamm had called The DJ Booth it
was the headquarters for the crew on 54th & Crenshaw
in the hood. I went over there and gave him a little audition to show
him what I had. We became friends and he gave me an opportunity to get
on the stage in front 10,000 people along side DJ Bobcat, The Egyptian
Lover, and the rest of the crew. Being in front of all those people
inspired me to get deeper in to the music business beyond the dance
promotion parties. Uncle Jamm started booking acts like Run-DMC to play
at the Sports Arena when they only had that single, Its Like That.
Nobody had discovered Sucker MCs on the B-Side yet. Run-DMC
hadnt played to a crowd of 10,000 people yet and they were nervous
about going on stage. Uncle Jamm had a huge following regardless of
whether they had a headlining act or not and I thought that was pretty
AllHipHop.com: Do you have a moment
that stands out for you while DJing for Uncle Jamms Army?
DJ Pooh: One that has always stood
out in my mind was a show that we did with LL Cool J, The Real Roxanne
and Kurtis Blow. In between the acts we would DJ and I was on the turn-tables
when a massive f***in fight broke out and it was complete chaos!
I just kept spinning until Rodger stopped me and announced to the crowd
that we were going to stop playing until things calm down. I was sitting
behind the turn-tables watching 7,000 people in a super panic running
left and right guys were getting stomped and it was real crazy.
That stands out in my mind because thats what put a damper on the
whole Uncle Jamms Army thing because people were afraid to come out
and party we had the terrible gang scenario that was growing in
AllHipHop.com: Legendary DJs
from that era like you, DJ Bobcat and Dr. Dre were able to make that
transition from being DJs to Music Producers. How were you able to
make that jump?
DJ Pooh: I have to credit Dr. Dre for
that. Back in the days when I was spinning with Uncle Jamm with Bobcat,
on the otherwise of town there was another promotional group called
The Wreckin Cru which Dr. Dre was a part of with Lonzo. It was a
competitive thing back and forth. If we both had a party on the same
weekend, we were all putting up posters and snatching each others
down. Then Dr. Dre and I had met each other through a person that had
record store booth inside of the Roadium Swapmeet. Dr. Dre was always
there at the time making mixtapes. Through that he had begun to do his
own productions and had gotten familiar with drum machines and other
equipment outside of the turn-tables. He showed me the ropes on all
of that and I had gotten bitten by the bug. I then had the opportunity
to show some of my work to Russell Simmons out in New York. I went to
Def Jam with a cassette tape of all the tracks that I had put together.
I even went out there with the drum machine that Dr. Dre was using.
So I went to New York and had a meeting and they listened to my tracks
and they liked it. DJ Bobcat was out there already with his production
partner Dwayne and they were already working with an artist named MC
Breeze who was under Def Jam. It made sense for all of us to come together
as the L.A. Posse at that time. From there we went on to produce
Bigger and Deffer for LL Cool J. We were trying to get MC Breezes
album out but we ran in to some friction from LL and a few others as
they viewed it as possible competition. We moved the deal over to Atlantic
Records and continued to produce for Breeze.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people dont
know that a group of guys from Los Angeles known as the L.A. Posse
played a big role with East Coast Hip-Hop especially when it comes to
LL Cool Js early career.
DJ Pooh: It was a difficult time but
it was fun. We were working out of Chung King Studios which was the
same studio used by Heavy D, RUN-DMC, LL Cool J, especially most of
the Def Jam acts at the time. LL was the biggest artist on Def Jam at
the time and he had just come off of his debut album. It was a great
opportunity to work on his sophomore album which cemented him. But when
we first got out there to New York, they actually referred to us as
Country. We were three guys from L.A. coming there with our own sound
with songs like I Need Love and others. The album was successful
and we were battling back and forth with the Michael Jackson Bad
album at the time.
After the LL album I wanted to go back
and help the West Coast out. The other guys stayed in New York to work
with LL but I decided to come back home and work with King Tee. We had
recorded Paybacks A Mutha and I took that out to New York to
try to get it spun. People were like, I dont know if we are ready
to listen to this guy rapping but we love the track so WBLS would
only play the instrumental. I had been working with Ice Cube since the
early NWA days when they were recording out of Eazy-Es garage at
his moms house.
AllHipHop.com: What involvement did
you have in those early N.W.A. songs?
DJ Pooh: Dr. Dre and I had co-produced
Eazy Duz It. Dr. Dre had a great idea to make and I came in to
assist him on that record and learn as much as I could. After N.W.A.
had broken up, I worked with Cube because I had known him more than
some of the other guys. I was a part of a production company called
The Boogiemen with DJ Bobcat and another guy named Rashad and we did
Ice Cubes Death Certificate album.
AllHipHop.com: Did that cause any problems
with your good friend and mentor Dr. Dre?
DJ Pooh: Not at all because Dre and
I have always had a respectful relationship. I have a great deal of
respect for him. I looked at it as just working with Ice Cube and helping
him accomplish what he wanted to do on the album. He had the whole concept
of the Death side and the Life side already in his head. That was back
in the day when artists made albums and it sounded like it was made
by one person instead of a bunch of different people.
AllHipHop.com: You had to have been
floored by the No Vaseline diss song to NWA when it was first
DJ Pooh: I was floored by it but I
understood what was going on. I worked on that record alongside Sir
Jinx and I put together the whole intro where it goes, Heres what
they think about you. N.W.A. aint sh*t without Ice Cube. It was
never personal. If I am working with an artist, I am going to help them
accomplish what they want. I wasnt personally going after Dr. Dre,
MC Ren, Yella or Eazy.
AllHipHop.com: You were asked to fill
a role played by your longtime friend Dr. Dre as the main Producer for
Snoop Doggs sophomore album The Doggfather, when Dr. Dre left
Death Row. What was your approach trying to fill Dres shoes?
DJ Pooh: People looked it as me being
put in a position to fill Dres shoes but I didnt see it that way.
I have such a great respect for Dr. Dre that I wouldnt even tell
anybody that I attempted to fill his shoes. What I did was try to do
the best job that I could for Snoop Dogg and do something that he felt
comfortable with. He was going through a murder trial at the time and
we had to make records that wouldnt be held up in a court room. It
was a tricky scenario because for one having to step in to a position
held by Dr. Dre and then produce something that we felt wouldnt send
Snoop Dogg off to jail.
AllHipHop.com: Werent you nervous
at all or somewhat overwhelmed at the task?
DJ Pooh: Not at all because I had
because I had been producing for a while and we all have our own styles
and own ways of doing things. I wasnt one to want to make an album
that sounded like something Dr. Dre would do. That approach took a whole
lot of pressure off of the scenario to begin with. I cant mimic his
style even though people that had become fans of Snoop Dogg during that
time would want that and some producers would probably try that approach
to please them.
AllHipHop.com: You then released your
own person project called Bad Newz Travels Fast. What led you
to do your own album after producing on so many other albums?
DJ Pooh: I had been working with so
many artists and I wanted to give them an opportunity and a platform
to get records made. Back in the day you could walk in to a record company
with a great demo and get an artist signed. It wasnt like today where
its a matter of how many hits you have online or what mixtape you
have out. It was more of the label feeling an artist and wanting to
develop them. That was my way of developing artists like Threat
and The L.A. Zoo.
AllHipHop.com: You spoke earlier about
the Ice Cube N.W.A. diss and how it wasnt personal. Yet on your own
album, you had a diss to Ice Cube by Kam called Whoop Whoop. That
wasnt personal too?
DJ Pooh: At the time I was working
on the album, Cube and I had our differences about our movie Friday
which was the first movie that we had co-written together. I also played
a small character named Redd in the movie. We also had the same management.
I felt that I was wronged on the Friday movie and we were young guys
so I took it personal. I put the blame on Cube and thats something
that I probably shouldnt have done. I went off on my own and felt
that it was time to take care of myself. I went to work on the album
and Kam had that song Whoop Whoop which was produced by DJ Tony
G. I heard the record and I actually fell in love with it and not just
the fact that it was a diss to Ice Cube. I loved the record itself and
Kam was someone that I brought to the table with Street Knowledge back
in the day. I took that record and just put it on my album.
AllHipHop.com: You went from DJing
to Producing to writing movies. Thats a huge jump. Was there anything
that brought that about?
DJ Pooh: I learned a lot of the script
writing process from Ice Cube and John Singleton. He had sat us down
and showed us the ropes and the basic structure of screenplay writing.
At the time I had an idea to do a movie that was based around Weed.
I felt that Weed could be as big a star in a movie as any of the actors
in it. I came to Cube with the idea and we ended up co-writing it together.
We had already done some videos together one in particular called
Whos The Mack where I played a character in it. We had a fun
time and it made us want to make films together.
AllHipHop.com: “Friday” had some great
characters. How did you come up with all of the different standout characters
for that movie?
DJ Pooh: A lot of that stuff were things
that came from the neighborhood. Things that you saw or were a part
of while growing up. The only movies coming out of the West Coast were
things like “Boyz N The Hood” and “Menace II Society.” I had a vision for
something else me being the comedian that I am. It was life in the
hood as for what it was but without focusing on the gang issues. We
were able to out on a limb and try something different.
AllHipHop.com: You have to talk about
that little run that you did after Deebo took the chain that your
Grandmama gave you.
DJ Pooh: A lot of people took to that
scene. I use that as an example for people that come to me and ask about
taking small roles in films. I go back to the role that I played as
Red in Friday. It was a small role but it was a very memorable character
in the movie. People remember it! I go to Disneyland with my kids and
people walk up to me and say, You got knocked the f**k out! I
dont take it personal because obviously they are showing their support
for the movie. I was honored to have our low budget project do what
it did. There is a cult following for it.
AllHipHop.com: “After Friday” you ended
up making a movie called “3 Strikes” that you produced and directed. What
was your idea on that one?
DJ Pooh: That movie came out during
the time that the 3 Strikes law was passed in California. I believe
in redemption and I believe that people can turn their lives around.
Me being a person that has focused on comedy, I wanted to talk about
that issue and bring attention to it through a comedy film. The story
was about a guy who was released from jail who had 2 strikes on him
and was thrust in to a bad scenario just by being picked up by a friend
who had a stolen car. He had no idea that it was and it showed how easily
his life could be thrown away over something like that.
AllHipHop.com: Your next movie “The
Wash” had you teaming with your good friend Dr. Dre.
DJ Pooh: “The Wash” was our take on the
70s “Car Wash” movie. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, myself and a few others
came together and agreed that a new version needed to be made. I played
the most incompetent kidnapper ever (laughs).
AllHipHop.com: You dont seem to
mind giving yourself roles in which you are made fun of.
DJ Pooh: Not at all. Its just a
movie. You cant always be the guy with the cape on. Somebody has
to be the person being rescued, or the villain. When I was younger,
I got in to some trouble and I did some time. I was the guy that had
everybody laughing in jail. I enjoy doing that.
AllHipHop.com: The last time we heard
from you musically was on the 213 album with Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and
Warren G. Why did you step back from the music scene?
DJ Pooh: Its because of the state
that the music industry is in today. I sort of saw it coming early.
I just feel the music industry is not about creativity or the artist.
Now its about the hype and everything but the actual art itself.
I am still a big fan of music and I still love to make tracks of my
own when I am at home. I have a love for music that will never die but
from a business standpoint there have been things that have made me
step back from the music industry.
AllHipHop.com: Once again you were
able to evolve and find another field to be successful at. I am talking
about your foray in to the Video Game market with Grand Theft Auto San
Andreas. How did you get involved in that?
DJ Pooh: Im a gamer and Ive been
one since back in the day. Im not just someone that was offered a
chance to work on a video game. That opportunity came because I am a
gamer and had interest in it. I was a fan of Rockstar Games and the
Grand Theft Auto series. I spoke to some people at Rockstar and they
told me that they were thinking about bringing the series out West.
They wanted to deal with people that knew and understood the Los Angeles
scene and that also had script writing ability. So I got involved and
worked on the script for the game and also suggested people as characters
for the game. I brought in a rap artist that I was working with named
Young Maylay and he became the CJ character. I was blessed to get an
opportunity to see all of the processes of video game making.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anything new
that you are working on right now in the video game, television and
DJ Pooh: I am working on a video game
right now with Rockstar Games but working for them is like working for
the C.I.A. If I talk about it, they will kill me (laughs). Also I am
looking at developing a few more games myself. I have just completed
two film scripts, but the film industry being what it is, I dont
want to give much info away on that either. Expect something along the
lines of Friday. I am trying to do something that Ive never done
before and thats work on a non-comedy. On the television side, I
created a show called The Life which is sort of a Hip-Hop version
of Entourage. Its a take on the Hip-Hop industry but I use Entourage
as sort of a guideline. I took that project to Ice Cube and his partner
Matt Alvarez at Cube Vision. We all walked it in to Comedy Central and
they loved the idea so we locked in a television deal. I then brought
on Aaron McGruder who I worked with on The Boondocks. Ive got a great
deal of love and respect for that guy hes brilliant. We just
completed the pilot and script and we are getting ready to go in to
casting for that project.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned that you
are working with Ice Cube again. How and when did that reunion come
DJ Pooh: It came about around a year
ago when we started talking about this project. I ran in to Cube at
a restaurant. For the longest time I felt that I had handled the situation
between us rather immaturely. It was really about a manager that we
both had at the time. It actually started at the Up In Smoke Tour in
Detroit. I had been hanging out with Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre discussing
The Wash. Cube went on stage and I was watching him perform songs that
we were a part of. It dawned on me that we had accomplished a lot together
and maybe I should talk to him because I wanted us to have a friendship
again. It is really hard to find good friends and good creative people
in this business. We ended up talking and apologized to each other and
decided that we werent even going to talk about that sh*t anymore.
When we work together, there is always a good outcome.
I feel like a part of the hold back
on the West Coast is attitude and guys not being able to grow. I think
what would help the West Coast is that we all need to recognize that
we need to grow up some more and be able to have an appreciation for
each other and the opportunity we have been given. I respect the new
guys like Nipsey Hussle, Glasses Malone and others. I support all of
the West Coast artists and the artists in the South and the East.
I dont want to regionalize Hip-Hop and I believe soon others wont
AllHipHop.com: Is there any way we
can convince you to get back in the studio to do one last project?
DJ Pooh: Yeah! I think me saying all
of this is leading me to say that I am going to get back in the studio
because I will be feeling Hip-Hop and music a little more as I do it
for a broader audience. Everybody has a story to tell but I think the
more honest stories are the ones that are not just about representing
where they are from its really where you are at. Once the region
and area shout-outs go away, it will be all about the music. At the
end of the way we are all brothers trying to do this thing, no matter
where you come from. The East Coast/West Coast thing drove me away from
Hip-Hop. I remember being in New York shooting the video for The Dogg
Pounds New York New York which I produced and we were shot
at! The song was never intended as a diss but once that war started,
that song was looked on as a diss. Shooting a video for that in the
middle of New York wasnt the safest or smartest thing to do at the
time. I told myself that I had to take a step back from Hip-Hop for
a minute. I love Hip-Hop but I love myself and I love my family too.
Its not worth it and people need to just back to making music again
and I see that more now which encourages me to step back in the
game and make music.